Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to common questions and how you can get started.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is simply the process of getting legal documents in place so that your chosen individuals are appointed to take care of you, your children, your assets, and your finances in the event of your death or incapacity. The process also involves naming the people you want to inherit your assets when you are gone. An “estate plan” is simply a bundle of all the documents needed to accomplish these objectives.

If you don’t currently have a will or trust, you may think you don’t have an estate plan….but you do. It’s just that the state of NY has written it for you! All states have a default plan for your family and assets in the event of your incapacity or death. That’s the plan you have now. Estate planning is “opting out” of the default plan and putting your own wishes in place.

What is our general process?

We have an easy, 3-step process designed to have your trust and other estate planning documents created and signed in 6-8 weeks:

*The first step is to attend your Legacy Session. You’ll fill out a secure online questionnaire before we meet so we can make the best use of our time together. In this session, you’ll learn all about your options and our flat fees. When you are ready to move forward, we’ll email you an engagement letter and invoice.

*Next is your Planning Meeting. We’ll roll up our sleeves and design your trust and other estate planning documents, working off the information you provided in your questionnaire. After this session, we’ll draft your documents, and send a copy for your review about two weeks later. We’ll then make any changes or updates you’d like to make. When everything is good to go, we’ll coordinate an in-person Signing Meeting.

*Your Signing Meeting is where you’ll sign your documents with the proper legal formalities, in front of two witnesses and a notary. We can have this session at our office or your home. Following execution of the documents, we are available for free, unlimited lifetime consultations regarding your estate plan.

What are the initial steps to get started?

When you are ready to move forward, whether at your Legacy Session or later, let me know and we’ll send you an engagement letter and invoice. Once these housekeeping items are taken care of, you’ll schedule your Planning Meeting.

What can I expect from my Planning Session?

An attorney who listens without interrupting and makes sure you fully understand your options before making any decisions! I wouldn’t be doing my job as an attorney otherwise. It’s very important to me that you feel heard and have your questions answered. We’ll also review our process, flat fees, and overall client experience so you know exactly what you are getting and what the investment will be.

What information do I need to get started?

Let me start by saying what we do NOT need! We do NOT need account statements, social security numbers, or tax returns. We DO need information on what kind of assets you own (house, retirement account, life insurance, etc.), their relative value, and how they are titled (jointly, individually, etc.) Beyond that, we simply need answers to questions about your personal estate planning preferences, including:

* Who you would want raising your minor children if something happened to you and your spouse or partner

* Who you want to be in charge of your children’s money until they are old enough to manage it themselves

* Who you want making medical and financial decisions for you in the event of your incapacity

Don’t worry if you don’t have the answers to these questions right away! You’ll have plenty of time to think things over and receive guidance throughout the process.

How much does estate planning cost?

It depends! Estate planning is not one size fits all, so it’s hard for us to give you a quote without knowing more about you. Even if you believe your situation is relatively simple, there are likely nuances you are not considering. We typically discuss our fees and process at length in the Legacy Planning Session, after we have counseled you on all your options. As it's difficult to quote fees without a thorough understanding of your situations, we typically do not discuss them prior to a Legacy Planning Session.

We understand that cost is an important factor in choosing an attorney, and that estate planning is a significant investment for many. It is our goal to be as transparent and fair as possible. For that reason, we offer flat fees as opposed to billing by the hour, so you know exactly what your investment will be. We also offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are not happy with our services, we will make it right, or refund your money.

Finally, we will only recommend planning with us if the amount you would save by doing an estate plan is greater than our fee.

What is probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process of administering your estate upon your death. If you die without a will, your estate must go through probate before all your money can be distributed to your heirs. And if you die WITH a will…your estate STILL has to go through probate! The only way to avoid probate is with a revocable living trust.

What’s so bad about probate? Even a simple probate can take years to complete and eats up as much as 5-7% of the estate assets in the meantime. It’s also a public proceeding that makes your will available to anybody who wants to look at it. Although a will is subject to the probate process, a living trust is designed to bypass it completely.

Is a simple Will enough?

Unfortunately, even a simple will is still subject to the expense and delays of probate. It’s not the complexity of the document that cause the time and expense, it’s the probate process itself. For this reason, most of my clients choose to create a living trust instead of a will, which is designed for simplicity and to avoid the probate process completely.

However, as part of an overall, comprehensive estate plan, a special “pour-over” will is used to appoint guardians for any minor children alive at your death.

Isn't estate planning just for rich people?

No. This is the biggest myth out there. Estate planning is in no way related to how much money you have, whether you are a married, or whether or not you are a parent.

Estate planning in putting legal documents in place that ensure your assets will go to the people you want, the way you want, when you are gone. It’s about making this as easy as possible on your loved ones during an otherwise difficult time. And we all care about that, no matter how much (or little) money we have.

It’s also about appointing people to manage your property and make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated, something that matters to all of us regardless of wealth status.

I’m not married – do I need an estate plan?

Yes! In some ways, you need estate planning MORE than married folks. Many non-married individuals want to leave their money to charities and friends, not their closest living relative. Unfortunately, if you die without getting this in writing, your estate could end up in the hands of that distant cousin you’ve met twice. And it’s important for everyone to have a Health Care Proxy and Financial Power of Attorney.

Can’t I just do my will on Legal Zoom?

You can. Keep in mind that Legal Zoom and law firms are two different things. They provide two different services. This is why the cost is different. Legal Zoom offers form documents you fill out and execute yourself. They are not a law firm and do not give legal advice. An attorney, on the other hand, counsels you and gives you legal advice based on your specific circumstances. They will customize your documents, ensure they are signed with the proper formalities, and pick up the phone when you call with questions. If these things are important to you, you should work with an attorney. If they are not, Legal Zoom may be a better option.

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